Let’s go knit at the lake! A Fringe late-summer lookbook

Fringe Supply Co. Late Summer Lookbook

Fall is coming — it’s true! — but let’s not be in too big of a hurry, shall we? Summer has its pleasures, even for us knitters. What could be better than knitting on a dock with good friends and some magazines and a big tub full of cold drinks? Sunscreen, hats, feet in the water. The onset of back-to-school season gave me the urge to do just that — flee to the lake for one last hurrah with two friends and a camera. And we brought along some new bags I’m so excited to show you!

Fringe Porter Bin butterscotch, Field Bag natural waxed canvas, Drawstring project bag

– Times like this are why I love the Porter Bin. It holds a load; sits so neatly out of the way on a shelf or by your chair, always at the ready; and travels beautifully. And I love it more than ever in our newest color: Butterscotch!

– Our beloved Field Bag has of course been a major hit in all its iterations, but waxed canvas makes it just that much more durable and travel friendly. After hearing so many people say they love the original Natural version but fear dirt, and since the Waxed Camo is my most-used Field Bag, we decided to make it in Waxed Natural, which is just beautiful — and translucent! With the crackled surface inherent in waxed canvas, it looks like porcelain or waxed butcher paper, but it repels water and wipes clean with a damp cloth! The best of all worlds.

– And in response to countless requests for a smaller bag (the Field Bag being so much roomier than it appears), I’m happy to present our new Fringe Supply Co. Drawstring Bag. In true Fringe fashion, it’s made of durable cotton canvas and built to last, with French seams, leather double drawcord and an outer pocket (slightly tone on tone) sized to hold a folded pattern or small notebook.

Of course, they all play together beautifully with the rest our bags and tools, all of which you can see in the full lookbook. I hope you enjoy this little virtual late-summer trip to the lake and that it inspires you to savor knitting outdoors while there’s still time.

Happy weekend!

Fringe Supply Co. drawstring bag and Field Bags

Photos by Hannah Messinger © Fringe Supply Co.

What I Know About: Breed-specific yarn (with Brooke Sinnes)

What I Know About: Breed-specific yarn (with Brooke Sinnes)

I’ve always counted Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep Yarns as my original newfound friend in the yarn world, and she is still one of the most knowledgable and thoughtful people I know, in addition to simply being one of my favorite humans. When I first started knitting, the two of us somehow became aware of each other on Twitter, met for tacos in Berkeley, discovered that we both had Napa and Kansas City in our backgrounds, and became instant friends. Shortly thereafter, I designed  the Double Basketweave Cowl in one of her gorgeous naturally dyed yarns, and we recently decided to upgrade the recommended yarn for that cowl to her incredible US-grown and -milled Cormo — a breed-specific, single-farm yarn, still naturally dyed. So we’re relaunching the now-Cormo cowl kit in the webshop today, and I thought it would be a great time to talk to Brooke about what it means to make and knit with breed-specific yarns and get her highly informed take on where we are with known origins at this stage in the knitting world.

For more of Brooke and her yarns, check out the Sincere Sheep website, and follow her on Instagram @sinceresheep. Here’s Brooke—

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When I first ran across you — when I first started knitting — I read the About page on your site about the name Sincere Sheep and that you were selling yarns made from identifiable breeds and farms, which made perfect sense to me as you live in Napa and I had lived in Napa, and that kind of awareness of “terroir” comes with the, er, territory. So I’m not sure I even realized how not-the-norm that was at the time. Did it seem groundbreaking to you when you set out with that as your mission?

At the time, although it was groundbreaking, I remember it seemed very natural to me. I moved back to Berkeley after graduating university in 2001, and I was living smack in the middle of an area known for progressive thinking. The slow food movement was really taking root. Seasonal eating, farmers’ markets and local food sourcing were a regular thing. A couple of years later, I moved to the Napa Valley and learned that wineries were creating single-vineyard wines, which was taking the concept of terroir to an even more specific level. I looked around at all of these developments related to food and the annual growing cycle and said to myself, “All of these concepts apply to natural fibers and dyes.” Every year sheep need to be shorn, and their fleece is a record of what happened to them during the year — just like grapes and other agricultural crops develop characteristics based on weather, soil, water, care, etc. The same is true of the plants we use for dyes. To take it a step further, each sheep breed has wool with different qualities that interact with the environment and make it appealing for different types of yarn. And actually, each sheep has its own individual characteristics.

Sincere Sheep came into being when I connected this concept with something I had learned while taking fiber arts classes in Berkeley: American wool prices were incredibly low. So low, in fact, that many small farmers weren’t even bothering to send their wool to the local wool broker. Instead they were throwing the wool away, composting it, or stashing it in the barn. I met with a shearer who specialized in small flocks and ‘lawnmower sheep,’ and they put me in contact with local farms where I could buy the wool. With that connection, taking the idea for terroir and translating it to fiber was doable. I had the local wool made into yarn and roving at a mill only 50 miles from my house. I dyed it with natural dyes, then labeled it with the name of the farm and its location, and also the sheep’s name if it had one. It felt really good to be supporting these farmers while making a highly transparent, local product that was fun to work with.

Like the larger “slow fashion” movement, it can feel like a new or trendy concept — knowing where your clothes or the fiber of your yarn comes from — when really it’s just an effort to get back to how things used to be. I know this is a book-sized question, but can you talk a little bit about the difference between “farm yarns” and where large-scale commercial yarns come from?

When I think about terroir in yarn, I think about texture. Farm yarns are typically made by farmers with wool from only their flock — which means all the wool comes from a specific place and reflects how the sheep lived that year. Mass-market yarns are different. They are made in large quantities, and made with wool that has been selected for specific qualities: fineness, length, or color. This means that a mass-market yarn will be exactly the same from yard to yard and from year to year. Their goal is absolute consistency. The fiber does not usually come from a specific farm, ranch, or even region!

One of my favorite things about farm yarn is how it has more texture — the wool can vary slightly from yard to yard, and it changes each year. This allows the qualities of the sheep breed(s) it is made from to shine through. For example, you get to experience the incredible elasticity of Cormo wool first hand in yarn form. Additionally this means you can revisit a farm yarn and experience how that year’s rainfall or temperature affected the character of the yarn. It is also more engaging for me to make — When I make a local, custom yarn I get to go to the farm and help with the shearing. I get to pick the fleeces that I want and send them to a mill to be processed into yarn or roving to my specifications. I think about the best yarn I can make with the wool I have just chosen. Other times, I work with a wool broker to find enough fleeces with the quality I am looking for from sheep that all live on the same ranch. From there, the wool is sent to the mill to be processed into custom yarn with specifications that we designate. It’s always interesting to open the boxes of yarn when they arrive and see how it has come out, how it is reflective of its terroir. My involvement allows me to create a yarn that shows the wool to its best advantage and a product with a unique, handmade story.

What I Know About: Breed-specific yarn (with Brooke Sinnes)

So you had this concept and named your business Sincere Sheep, but it’s a steep challenge. Was it as you imagined, or how would you describe the trajectory from where you started out to where you are now, and what you’ve had to navigate in between?

When I started Sincere Sheep 15 years ago I don’t think I was thinking long term. I saw that there was an opportunity for me to make a difference to local farmers who were hurting because of the low wool prices. That continues to be one of my goals today, even though American fine wool prices have almost doubled from 2017 to 2018. Regardless of wool price, small-scale farming is hard work and needs our support if we want it to continue.

What I didn’t realize when I first started making yarn was how little of the American textile industry was still around after the mass exodus of both jobs and machinery in the ’80s due to the push toward globalization. It was a real challenge to find a mill that could handle fine wool in small to medium quantities and then spin a yarn to consistent specifications year after year. It has been heartening to see some of these small-scale production capabilities return to the American textile industry over the past 15 years

As the business grew, I started to incorporate more international yarns that were Merino-based because of market demand. I semi-jokingly refer to those years as the era of the ‘cult of the soft.’ Throughout that time, I continued to make small farm yarns and roving mostly from California ranches and kept my eye open for when I would be able to offer more domestic bases. That happened about 4 years ago. Since 2014, I’ve been custom making my American-sourced and -spun Cormo yarn in coordination with Jeane deCoster of Elemental Affects. By working collaboratively, we can buy a large lot of wool and take advantage of large-quantity price breaks given by the mills where we have the wool cleaned and spun.

I’ve had yarns custom made for me since the beginning, and as my business has grown so has the scale of these projects. Scaling up has really changed a lot of the dynamics within Sincere Sheep. Most indie dyers buy [finished, undyed] yarn from wholesalers on an as-needed basis. This means that they only buy what they need, when they need it. The wholesaler is therefore the one who is shouldering the bulk of the production risk and inventory warehousing in order to fulfill orders. Currently, if you want to make a custom-spun yarn that includes wool from only one clip and only one location, you have to buy all the wool at one time that you are going to need to make all of the yarn that you will need for the following year. So it becomes more complicated: Not only are you forecasting how much wool is enough without being too much, but you also have to be prepared to outlay all of your cash at once. Then when the yarn is finished being milled it all comes at one time, and you have to warehouse hundreds of pounds of yarn. It is a lot of planning ahead. With everything that goes into it, it’s always an exciting day when we finally get a batch of yarn or roving back from the mill!

I know in the 6.5 years I’ve been knitting, the surge in visibility of farm yarns — and I’m referring here specifically to farmers who are having their fleece milled into yarn, and marketing it with some success, even beyond their own farmers’ market — and in yarn companies shifting more and more toward origin transparency and breed specificity has been really amazing to watch. Where do you think we’re really headed?

My mom is in sales and taught me the term ‘bleeding edge’ — meaning you are too far ahead of a trend and there isn’t yet a market for your goods. Fifteen years ago, when I was starting to make farm yarns from non-Merino wools, I was the bleeding edge. People were interested and supportive, but they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around using my yarns. Around the same time, Merino was really starting to make a huge splash as a breed-specific yarn and people were discovering that wool could be soft and wearable. Over the years since then, there has certainly grown a greater understanding of breeds and origins and that’s a very positive shift! People are now interested in single origin, non-Merino wool yarns, but I still have new customers who are surprised by just how many breeds there are. I am hopeful that this trend in origin transparency and breed specificity will continue and that people understand that they have the powerful ability to directly support farmers, mills and dyers with their purchase.

Double Basketweave Cowl (free pattern)

So let’s talk about this Cormo of yours. Cormo, to the extent it’s known at all really, is best known as an Australian breed, right? But you’re among a small number of people bringing US Cormo to the forefront. What is it about Cormo that lights you up especially, and how did you come to be making Cormo yarn?

You’re correct, Cormo is an Australian breed. The Cormo sheep was developed in the 1960s in Tasmania by crossing Corriedales (a medium-wool type sheep) with Saxon Merinos (a fine-wool type sheep). Cormo sheep were selected for breeding based on the weight of their fleeces (high); the diameter of their fiber (18-23 microns, which is relatively fine but still strong); high fertility so more lambs per litter; and body weight. Cormos were then imported in the 1970s to the US to improve the wool produced on rangeland ranches.

What I love about Cormo wool is its soft, downy hand and incredible elasticity. It’s common for me to have people unfamiliar with Cormo ask me if my yarn is cotton because of how soft it feels. We have the yarn spun and plied on the tighter side to help the yarn wear better and it looks equally great in accessories and garments. I love it when a customer wears their finished sweater to a show and tells me how much they loved working with the yarn — and then proceeds to buy more for their next project! It is incredibly satisfying to see someone love a specific yarn that much.

I first discovered Cormo wool via Sue Reuser who was farming Cormo sheep up in Orland, CA. She had the most amazing flock of white and colored Cormos. She was breeding them towards producing fleeces for handspinners. Sue had a strong and loyal base of spinners that would buy a fleece or two or three every year and would often reserve a fleece a year in advance and then come up for the shearing. I was at one of those shearings when Sue offered to sell me some white Cormo fleece that wasn’t already reserved. I bought the wool and made my first Cormo yarn from it. This continued on the next couple of years until Sue retired, and I convinced Jeane DeCoster to start making a replacement Cormo yarn with me. Now Jeane and I make four different weights of Cormo yarns every year and then each of us dyes the yarns in our own distinctive way. I love the hand of our yarns, and it takes natural dyes beautifully. I have yet to tire of knitting with it on a daily basis!

What makes you so excited about switching over to the Cormo Sport for the Double Basketweave Cowl kit?

I often talk about how much I enjoy being a part of and supporting the handmade community, and connecting with all of the people that I meet through Sincere Sheep. I’m passionate about providing makers with the best quality yarn that is both enjoyable to work with while knitting and results in a finished project that is richly textured and enjoyable to wear. I love the way the Cormo Sport feels to knit and it’s so cozy in the finished cowl. As a bonus, it’s a meaningful opportunity for your customers to support an American wool farmer, mill and dyer.

. . .

Thank you so much, Brooke! And for those interested, check out the free Double Basketweave Cowl pattern here on the blog, and find the Cormo cowl kit (includes the printed pattern and two skeins of Brooke’s beautiful yarn) over at Fringe Supply Co.!

Happy weekend, everyone—

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PREVIOUSLY in What I Know About: Gansey origins (with Deb Gillanders)

The new Jen Hewett x Fringe Field Bag is here!

The new Jen Hewett x Fringe Field Bag is here!

Today’s the day! The fifth Jen Hewett x Fringe Field Bag is finally here — and this one is sticking around!

As you likely know: Since 2016, we’ve done 4 special-edition Field Bags with printmaker Jen Hewett, which were limited in number due to the fact that Jen was handprinting each one herself — so they sold out within minutes, leaving a lot of very happy people and also some disappointed ones. We love the Jen bags as much as you do and feel the pain of those limited releases, so we found a local printer to do the printing — which means this one is here to stay! It’s the most stunning one yet, and you can get it today at Fringe Supply Co. and through our Field Bag stockists. (And if it sells out this weekend, it will be back!)

We’re calling this new print Hank on account of it looks like skeins of yarn, or the crimp in wool fibers, or any number of other fibery things. In off-black ink on natural canvas (with our standard natural leather handle that darkens with use), it looks amazing with everything, from my beloved waxed camo Field Bag to Jen’s lively stripes-and-prints ensemble, above. For more details and to snag yours, head on over to Fringe Supply Co. And we also have the newest MDK Field Guide, Ease in stock.

Happy weekend to you — I’ll see you back here next week, rested and ready to spill!

Jen Hewett x Fringe Field Bag — now available!

New tote! + Elsewhere

"Bury me with yarn and needles" tote from Fringe Supply Co.

Sometime last year, my brain coined a funny phrase: Bury me with yarn and needles and I shall rest in peace. Morbid but lovely, right? I asked myself: If I were to print that on a tote bag, would anyone but me want to carry it around? Based on the response when we previewed it at the Squam Art Fair, the answer is a resounding yes! Thankfully, because when I love something, I really hope you will too! And am so thankful that you do. The tote is available today at Fringe Supply Co. and at yarn stores all over — ask for it at your LYS or order it here.

And with that, here’s a small but meaty Elsewhere!

– Off topic, but fascinating and so important — please read from start to finish! The nut behind the wheel

Lovely piece by Karen Peacock about her crochet life and her groovy Logalong sweater pattern

Comprehensive guide to sewing buttons onto your handknits

– And hooray! the custom croquis-maker MyBodyModel is now in beta

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PREVIOUSLY in Elsewhere: Overlapping make-alongs

My pocket-sized life

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

This is my heart, my mind and my life — the last six months of it, anyway — in the form of a pocket-sized bullet journal, and I’m so deeply attached to it I can hardly even tell you. I’ve been sharing some of the spreads on Instagram the past few months (collected together under #ktminibujo) and have had requests that I write more about it. Ok!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a lifelong blank-book junkie. I’ve had more diaries, sketchbooks and datebooks than I could count (many of them still in a big rubbermaid tub that moves around with us from place to place) — but it’s been quite a few years. In more recent years, I’ve been tempted by Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system, just because I love both organizational systems and paper so much, but “bujo” is sort of a cross between a planner and a diary. A paper-based planner is not really an option when your days are as complicated as mine, and I’ve never stuck with a diary for more than a few entries at a stretch. Still, I’m drawn to how flexible and customizable the basic concept is, and I’ve incorporated certain aspects of it into my web-based planner system. But seeing examples on Instagram of the incredible spreads and concepts people have come up with, within the larger #bulletjournal ecosystem, is incredibly inspiring to me. And then came my making journal, with its slight nods to bujo here and there. And then came the prototypes for the beautiful memo books (and leather cover) that finally made it into the webshop at the end of last week.

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

The samples came at a moment when I needed some help, to be honest. The first few months of this year were rough, and I was feeling both frayed and disconnected — from myself and everything else. One day, in looking at some of the “habit trackers” people have designed for themselves, I had an idea for charting my well-being and its influences, and I had the perfect notebook in which to do it! After that, I was besotted with my little book. It’s truly either in my hand, my pocket or right next to me at all times. Its very presence — the act of interacting with it — has done wonders for me.

There’s not much that’s core bujo in it, but it owes everything to the flexible, freeform, ever-evolving ethos of the system. There are no “dailies” or “weeklies” but there is a quarterly overview (a sort of “future log”) where I’ve listed top-level deadlines and initiatives for myself, to keep me focused on the big picture. In addition to my monthly “mood” charts with their occasional one-line entries about the day, there’s a page for each month that serves as a timeline, on which I record the highlights: travel, dinners out, time spent with friends. I’ve tried to make note of what we’re watching or reading or listening to, as I miss having a reading journal. And I’ve found myself actually writing a diary entry at the end of each month, sort of recapping life and where my head is at. But along the way, I’ve found myself craving more visual, dimensional, full-color representations of what I’m up to — to be able to actually SEE what I’m doing — which has taken all sorts of forms: from incorporating my spring make list into my Q2 priorities (which accounts for how much of it I’ve actually gotten done!) to enshrining my 10×10 outfits, logging my bathroom renovation measurements and shopping list, and sketching my Summer of Basics plan. I even included my little summer mood board because it makes me feel happy. I draw pictures and diagrams, glue things in, anything goes! And I have the notion that perhaps I’ll have prints made of a few relevant IG photos from the same time period, and enclose them at the end.

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

For all the books I’ve filled (or half-filled) in my years, I’ve never had anything like this one — so much more a reflection of the timespan than any written journal or datebook. And I love that I’ve got six months of life rather beautifully encapsulated in this small volume (or will, once the final four spreads are filled with Squam and Portugal this month). At that rate — two of these per year — even if I kept it up for 10 years, it would occupy very little space in the world and yet tell such a story.

So yes, I’m deeply attached to this notebook — the first thing I would reach for in a fire — and thankful to Ryder Carroll and every bujo-er who’s inspired me so far.

. . .

There’s nothing to say a bullet journal has to be beautifully designed or elegantly hand-lettered or anything at all — it can be as simple as what Ryder demonstrates in his video or whatever you want it to be! — but if you want to look at some of the bujo Instagram feeds I find most inspiring, see @abulletandsomelines, @vestiblr, @tinyrayofsunshine (so many others!) and of course @bulletjournal

And you can find my perfect little notebook over at Fringe Supply Co.

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

PREVIOUSLY: Do you keep a knitting journal?

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New pouches + new policies! (Please read)

Fringe Supply leather stitch marker pouch, now in 3 colors!

I have some big little news for today from the land of beautiful tools: Our ever-popular triangle stitch marker pouch is now available in two more colors of leather! In addition to the original Natural, it also now comes in Sienna (tan) and Black! (I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been petting my neighbor’s chihuahua or what, but I just had the urge to add “That’s hot.” I have never said that in my life! But I mean, it is.) We’ve updated the antiqued-brass stud and some other fine details, and it still comes loaded with 12 stitch markers (10 brass, 2 nickel) and ships in a little muslin bag. Such a great gift — either for yourself or your favorite knitter. And of course, we also have the larger leather tool pouch (in Natural only) plus every size, variety and interchangeable part of the Lykke Driftwood needles, all over at Fringe Supply Co.! Plus so much more, obvs.

I hope you have a relaxing long weekend planned (for those of you in the US), as I do not! So please indulge a little extra on my behalf. Fortunately, everything I have on my plate is exciting, even if there is a an excess of it. LOL. Thanks for all the great conversation on all my summer wardrobe planning posts the past few days! I’ll see you back here next week—

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IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT YOUR PRIVACY

You’ve no doubt been inundated with emails this week from everyone on earth updating their mailing lists and policies as a result of the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We do not auto-subscribe our readers or shop customers or anyone else. If you currently receive blog email notifications or shop newsletter emails, it’s because you have opted in to receive them, and you may opt out at any time using the links in the bottom of the email in question. Thank you so much for subscribing!

We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for all of our sites and services. Please take a moment to review those documents. By continuing to receive our emails and use the websites, as of and after May 25th 2018, you acknowledge our updated Privacy Policy and agree to our updated Terms of Service.

Big shop news + LYS Day + More

Big shop news + LYS Day + More

Dear friends, there is so much happening I hardly know where to start! So let’s just take it in chronological order, shall we? Deep breath; here we go:

– In the shop today are two pretty new publications you’ll want for your library: Volume 5 of Making: Color and MDK Field Guide 6: Transparency — AND we finally got a box full of all the gorgeous horn and bone buttons you’ve been waiting on plus the ebony repair hooks are back in stock!

– BUT WAIT! In the shop tomorrow will be something many of you have dreamed of and begged for: Toffee Field Bags! You heard that right — the late, great, deeply loved, loudly lamented Toffee is making its return, as first announced on Instagram.

– BUT WAIT! If you want Toffee and there’s a Field Bag Stockist near you, you can get it there tomorrow, which happens to also be:

– LYS Day! Stores around the globe have all manner of exciting things planned, from special guests to limited goods to who knows what! And those shops that are Fringe Supply Co. stockists will have the Toffee Field Bag among their exciting offerings, and also the ever-popular Grey Field Bag! (Going forward, Grey will only be available through our stockists, and not through us.) So if it’s Toffee or Grey you seek, and you want it in your hands tomorrow, check the stockist page to see if your local yarn store is a Field Bag stockist. If not, you’ll also be able to order Toffee at Fringe Supply Co. as of Saturday morning. Either way, plan to visit your LYS tomorrow and see what fun stuff they have in store for you! And let them know how much you appreciate them.

– Sunday is Earth Day, and also the launch of a small business I’m very excited about: Rove + Weft. This is two women who come from the fashion industry and wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between textile artisans around the globe and those of us who want traceable, responsible fabrics to sew with. They’re launching with a small set of absolutely beautiful, gossamer cotton khadis from India, which you can see on their Instagram and will be able to order through their website as of Sunday. Sarah and Abby were kind enough to send me a few yards of two of the fabrics recently and they are lovely.

– And then Monday is the start of Fashion Revolution Week!

Which part are you most excited about? And whatever your plans, I hope you have a magnificent weekend—

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere